YA Bonus – Freedom isn’t all about you

Someone next to you needs to hear your voice.

Perhaps you don’t already know this, so I will speak it plainly:

Someone needs you.

You know people that I don’t know. You sit beside people that I do not sit beside. You have influence in the lives of people around you, whether you know it or not.

When you speak hope, hope shines.

When you speak Life, Life shines.

When you speak Christ, Christ shines.

There are people in this world who will never open a Bible, and people who may hear the name of Jesus but do not know the freedom He offers, the power of the resurrection to lift guilt and shame and all the junk of life.

Your pressures and struggles are different than mine. Youth and young adults have pressures and struggles that I can imagine, I can talk about from my experience, but ears aren’t quite as open to my voice in the past tense. You have the benefit of the present. You have the benefit of, “I’ve been there. I am there. We’re in it together.”

In today’s podcast we’ll discuss some unique yokes of young adulthood and why “in it together” matters more than you might think.

Dear College Student: Be Brave

Dear College Student,

Be Brave.

This is a big thing you are doing, not a little thing. Jumping head first into the world. Entering the unknown, in order to know and be known deeper; learning, growing, becoming a truer version of yourself.

Some days might be scary. Other days might be lonely. Some days will be filled with laughter, so full and rich, that you’ll beg for more days, just like that one. You’ll crave more of that, want more – stronger relationships, more authentic conversations, more vulnerability and less doubt.

You’ll look around you and know suddenly that these are the people that you’ll stand beside to watch them marry, you’ll walk together through success and failure, you’ll hold each other’s babies. You’ll cry with them when their jerk boyfriend leaves them, even though you never really liked him anyway. You’ll comfort each other with Doritos and Halo Top, when life sucks the heart and soul right out of you. You’ll cheer and jump when someone gets accepted to something that seemed impossible and elite.

But again, none of it will be easy. It will be good, but very rarely will it be easy, and that can be more than a little disconcerting.

It’s time to be brave. Braver than you’ve ever been.

It’s not actually about reaching the skies. Don’t worry, GPA matters, but people matter more.

Be brave.

Care about truth more than being right.

Set some boundaries. Give of yourself, but only give yourself away to Jesus. Care for friendships, stay up late, do crazy things, but know your limit.

Be brave.

Tell boys, “No.” Tell girls, “No.” Only drink when it’s classy, and stop before you think you should. When situations feel not-quite-right, they aren’t. Get out, don’t do it. We all have a reverse button. Use it.

Be brave.

You have one life and one body, be good to it. Eat good food, three times a day, plus snacks. Workout, join intramurals, or be your athletic self. Get sleep. Stand in front of a mirror and tell your body it’s doing a great job. Don’t berate it. Speak the truth in love to yourself. Make sure you don’t creep out your roommate while doing it.

Be brave.

Some friendships may die. Some of the first people you meet may be your friends forever, but it’s ok if your first roommate isn’t the best one, and it’s ok to let a friendship go when it doesn’t bring out the best in either of you. God is always bringing new people into our lives, some things are worth holding on tight to, while some just aren’t. That’s ok.

Be brave.

Decide what really matters today. And if it takes some time to figure it out, that’s fine too. But don’t let professors tell you what really matters. Don’t let Joe Schmo tell you what you believe in.  Surround yourself with people who have questions, but are looking for answers, not those who believe they have them already. There is a difference between believing in something and being a know-it-all.

Be brave.

Listen for and follow people who share hope. Watch out for people who claim zeal with no mercy. Something is off. That’s a warning signal. People who cry mercy, but have no truth, that’s destructive too.

Think for yourself.

Ask often, “Is this truth in love and love in truth?”

Be brave.

Do not leave your Bible at home. You are going to have to open it, even if you never have before. If you don’t own one, go buy one. I’ll send you one, for that matter! You need a foundation, or everything you think you’re building will crumble. Look in the Word of God for the answers. Find pastors and campus ministries. Go to church, not just for the message, but to be part of the people of God. Seek, find, knock, and pray. Otherwise this world will seem so hopeless, so broken, so lost, that it will physically hurt.

Be brave.

Hold tight to Jesus. He’s not worth giving up – for a boy, a class, a job, a reputation, or a moment.

Be brave.

It’s hard. It’s work. It’s good. It’s new. It’s vibrant. It’s awesome.

Walk brave.
Think brave.
Be brave.
These are some of my favorite college students to be brave with.

* …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:7-8a 


Autism, #27, and inviting people in

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
                                                                Ephesians 4:25

Session one of learn to play hockey ended last night. Not a huge deal in most people’s world, but in ours, it is. 

Zeke desperately wanted to play hockey. He watched his big brother play his heart out and imagined himself on the ice. He bought his own whistle, so that he could pretend to referee the other kids playing. He strapped on skates for an open skate and stepped out onto the ice. He tentatively took little baby ice-skating steps. He did great, so we thought, “Ok, Zeke, let’s do hockey!” We bought him the shorts, and the pads, and the stick for his birthday. 

The first night, we took out all the gear from our bag, along with the 20 or so other parents, all eagerly awaiting the unveiling of their tiny ice stars. We piled on the pads. We tightened the skates. And then it happened… Zeke walked onto the ice. I knew instantly that something was wrong. Zeke hunched himself over and skated almost like he was curled up in a ball. 

It was weird. Then it got worse. He started falling. And I don’t mean he fell a couple of times. He fell and fell and fell some more. He was clearly struggling. At one point he looked like a turtle stuck on his back.  

I heard the snickers around me. I glanced around and saw a couple of moms pointing and assumed the worst. My face flamed up. I could feel the embarrassment and then its cousin, shame, slowly creeping up my chest. I was texting with my friends, just to make it through the 50 minute lesson. 

“These women, they don’t know. How dare they laugh at Zeke!”
“There’s actual pointing going on! I’m rageful.”
“I’m just sad. Tears are rolling down my face. I wish this world was a better place for him. I just want it to be so much better.”

My friends comforted me and helped me sort through the anger, the frustration, and the shame. I realized that the equipment threw Zeke’s sensory system over the edge. The weight of a chest pad, too tight elbow pads, shin guards, and tightened skates, throw in a cold arena and slippery ice…it’s a lot for a sensory challenged kid. Looking back I was pretty impressed that Zeke wasn’t just screaming like a banchee (not an uncommon response to sensory challenges). 

I finally turned to one mom, channeled my inner Dr. Brene Brown, and made myself intensely vulnerable. I invited someone, a stranger, into my pain.

“This is so hard for me. He’s autistic. I just love him so much, but the equipment is just too much for him. And learning something new is hard. Skating is hard. He hates anything that’s hard and a struggle. Don’t we all, but it’s intense for him in a way that it probably isn’t for you or me.”

She smiled, “Look at them. They all are falling down. They all look a bit ridiculous, trying to stay standing up! It’s adorable.” In an instant my fear and anger and sadness dissipated. She pointed, not at my son, but her own, and then the myriad of skaters I failed to notice in my struggle, all trying to stay on two awkward skate blades. 

I realized that, while I do think some of the mamas could have been a bit more sensitive, I had created my own place of shame. I had wrapped myself in a blanket of embarrassment and disconnected from the reality of 30 or so little kids struggling through something new. I only saw my own little one’s pain and frustration and wanted so badly to take it away that I made up a story and pointed my rage at those around me.

And as life will, in the next moment it became supremely ironic…
I watched one coach skate over to Zeke and help him up. He dusted him off and then proceeded to spend the rest of the lesson giving him confidence, giving him props, and an arm to hold on to when he needed his bearings. The mom I was talking to pointed at the coach, “That’s my husband.” 

I said a small prayer – Thank you, God, for people, and care, and connection in this life.

Fast forward 8 weeks, hockey ended yesterday. I stood at the side of the ice with the moms. We laughed and talked about how far they have come. Little tiny skaters, falling down (much less!), getting back up, and having the time of their lives. 

I was so proud of my #27. He walked off the ice. They gave him a certificate and some pretty cool hockey cards, but I don’t think anything could mean as much as the fist bump waiting for him from that one coach. The coach who reached out and said with everything he did, “We’re in this together buddy. It’s hard work, but you can do it.”

One person, one mom, one coach. One moment made a supreme difference in my life, and in my son’s life. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit welled up and I was able to overcome all my assumptions and other made up stories in my head (another Brene Brown-ism).  

I could have gone through all of it, frustrated and hurt, raging at those around me, but I found truth, by inviting someone in. 

He can heal hidden hurts, bind up a broken heart, through kind and tender words, and through connection, one to another. 

For #27 and his mama, it made all the difference. 

*photo made with a vrsly overlay
*more on the stories in your head and connection in Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong